Acts 28 (NLT)
Paul on the Island of Malta
1 Once we were safe on shore, we learned that we were on the island of Malta. (The word Malta means “refuge.”) 2 The people of the island were very kind to us. It was cold and rainy, so they built a fire on the shore to welcome us.
February 10 is a holiday in Malta, celebrating the Feast of St. Paul’s Shipwreck to their island. The bay where Paul supposedly landed is called St. Paul’s Bay, the main cathedral, in Mdina, is dedicated to him, and the patron saint of the island is, of course — him!
3 As Paul gathered an armful of sticks and was laying them on the fire, a poisonous snake, driven out by the heat, bit him on the hand. 4 The people of the island saw it hanging from his hand and said to each other, “A murderer, no doubt! Though he escaped the sea, justice will not permit him to live.” 5 But Paul shook off the snake into the fire and was unharmed. 6 The people waited for him to swell up or suddenly drop dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw that he wasn’t harmed, they changed their minds and decided he was a god.
God didn’t preserve Paul from the storm just to let him perish by a snake. Paul was protected. It was promised he would go to Rome (you must also bear witness at Rome, Acts 23:11), and Paul wasn’t to Rome yet. It wasn’t so much that nothing would stop Paul as it was that nothing would stop God’s promise from being fulfilled
7 Near the shore where we landed was an estate belonging to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed us and treated us kindly for three days. 8 As it happened, Publius’s father was ill with fever and dysentery. Paul went in and prayed for him, and laying his hands on him, he healed him. 9 Then all the other sick people on the island came and were healed. 10 As a result we were showered with honors, and when the time came to sail, people supplied us with everything we would need for the trip.
Paul Arrives at Rome
11 It was three months after the shipwreck that we set sail on another ship that had wintered at the island—an Alexandrian ship with the twin gods as its figurehead. 12 Our first stop was Syracuse, where we stayed three days.
13 From there we sailed across to Rhegium. A day later a south wind began blowing, so the following day we sailed up the coast to Puteoli. 14 There we found some believers, who invited us to spend a week with them.
And so we came to Rome.
15 The brothers and sisters in Rome had heard we were coming, and they came to meet us at the Forum on the Appian Way. Others joined us at The Three Taverns. When Paul saw them, he was encouraged and thanked God.
16 When we arrived in Rome, Paul was permitted to have his own private lodging, though he was guarded by a soldier.
Paul was chained to a Roman guard who was likely on a four-hour shift. At first, one thinks to feel sorry for Paul. But on further consideration, one may pity the guards, who for hours at a time could not escape Paul’s preaching, teaching, and praying! Paul is the one who has a captive audience! And the Lord blessed:
Philippians 1:12-14 (NLT) (written while Paul was imprisoned in Rome)
And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ. And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear.
Paul Preaches at Rome under Guard
17 Three days after Paul’s arrival, he called together the local Jewish leaders.
This was Paul’s usual practice, to meet the Jewish leaders first in every city he entered.
He said to them, “Brothers, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Roman government, even though I had done nothing against our people or the customs of our ancestors. 18 The Romans tried me and wanted to release me, because they found no cause for the death sentence. 19 But when the Jewish leaders protested the decision, I felt it necessary to appeal to Caesar, even though I had no desire to press charges against my own people. 20 I asked you to come here today so we could get acquainted and so I could explain to you that I am bound with this chain because I believe that the hope of Israel—the Messiah—has already come.”
21 They replied, “We have had no letters from Judea or reports against you from anyone who has come here. 22 But we want to hear what you believe, for the only thing we know about this movement is that it is denounced everywhere.”
23 So a time was set, and on that day a large number of people came to Paul’s lodging. He explained and testified about the Kingdom of God and tried to persuade them about Jesus from the Scriptures. Using the law of Moses and the books of the prophets, he spoke to them from morning until evening.
Don’t we wish we could have heard this?! Paul, explaining how the Old Testament shows that Jesus is sent from God for the salvation of all humankind! Just as Christ had done before while traveling to Emmaus:
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, Jesus interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
24 Some were persuaded by the things he said, but others did not believe. 25 And after they had argued back and forth among themselves, they left with this final word from Paul: “The Holy Spirit was right when he said to your ancestors through Isaiah the prophet,
26 ‘Go and say to this people:
When you hear what I say,
you will not understand.
When you see what I do,
you will not comprehend.
27 For the hearts of these people are hardened,
and their ears cannot hear,
and they have closed their eyes—
so their eyes cannot see,
and their ears cannot hear,
and their hearts cannot understand,
and they cannot turn to me
and let me heal them.’
28 So I want you to know that this salvation from God has also been offered to the Gentiles, and they will accept it.”
In just a few years after Paul’s rebuke of those Jews who rejected Jesus, the Jewish people of Judea were slaughtered wholesale and Jerusalem was destroyed.
30 For the next two years, Paul lived in Rome at his own expense. He welcomed all who visited him, 31 boldly proclaiming the Kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ. And no one tried to stop him.
Paul’s chains did not matter. The Word of God was proclaimed without hindrance!
The End of the Book of Acts
What actually happened to Paul? The book of Acts does not say. The pastoral letters, however, suggest that he was freed after a first trial (2 Timothy 4:16). Possibly, then, he went to Spain (Romans 15:24), and to Asia Minor (Titus 3:12), Macedonia (1 Timothy 1:3), and Crete (Titus 1:5).
Once back in Rome, Paul was brought to trial a second time and convicted (2 Timothy 4:6, 16). Finally, outside Rome, around AD 67, he was beheaded.
Why did Luke leave Acts unfinished? Some scholars believe the book ends here because Luke wrote it as a “friend of the court” brief for Paul’s trial in Rome. But does this book end at all? Do not the “Acts of the Believers, and of the Holy Spirit” continue even now? We are writing our own chapters of Acts in the daily events of our lives!
from This Day with the Master,
by Dennis F. Kinlaw
SHACKLED IN ROME
I love the ending of the book of Acts, which is the final story of the apostle Paul in the early church. Paul was a courageous spokesman for the gospel of Christ. He had given his life for the message, and at the end of his life he found himself under house arrest in Rome. In spite of the fact that he had to live shackled to a Roman soldier, he spent his time teaching people about Jesus Christ and the kingdom of God.
If you had lived in Rome in those days, where would you have thought the future was? The typical person would have looked to Nero’s palace for the power and the future, believing that the significant figure was the emperor ruling from his throne. The reality is that today, two thousand years later, we name our dogs Nero and our sons Paul. The world’s ways are never the ways of God, and the world’s people are never the people of God. The one who cast a long shadow over the next two thousand years was one who was tucked away in a simple house and shackled to a Roman soldier, not the one who sat on the throne, dictating to people how they should please him.
Do you feel your life is being wasted? Are you in some sort of captivity? If so, take heart. I am sure that Paul felt exactly the same way. Instead of taking the gospel to Spain, he was chained to a guard in Rome, influencing only those who came to visit him. But God’s ways are not our ways, and God used Paul in the place of his captivity, with all its limitations, to change all of human history.
How do you close the book of Acts?! HERE is a Taize song which I think makes a good connection between then and now.
“The kingdom of God is justice and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit;
Come, Lord, and open in us the gates of your kingdom.”
Well, what did you think of ACTS as you read it this time? What seemed new to you? What spoke to your heart / mind? Please share your impressions with the rest of us! Reply by leaving a comment below! Many thanks!